2013 Honda Fit EV: First Drive Of Honda's All-Electric Car Page 3

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2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

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Honda thoughtfully provided a curving uphill on-ramp on the short, 7-mile drive route (we did several loops), which showed off the Fit EV's ability to accelerate past both slow-moving semis and aggressively-driven sport utilities with blacked-out windows and aftermarket wheels.

Better handling than Leaf

Honda said using Sport mode will cut range about 10 percent, while driving in Eco mode can add as much as 17 percent to the stated 82-mile range. (We think it's still not worth it, unless you're in extremis.)

With a 55-45 weight distribution (better than the standard, nose-heavy gasoline Fit) and its low-mounted battery pack, the Fit EV handles nicely and corners flat.

In head-to-head handling course comparisons with a Nissan Leaf, the electric Honda clearly came out ahead and drove more responsively.

The ride is firm, with noticeable tire noise on some surfaces,

Honda provides a "B" mode on the drive selector, which increases the brake regeneration. In standard "D" mode, the Fit EV drives like a conventional vehicle fitted with an automatic transmission.

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

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We spent quite a lot of time in "B" mode, and can say that it's not nearly as aggressive as similar modes on other electric cars, particularly the BMW ActiveE and Tesla Roadster. It allows "one-pedal driving" some of the time, but we still found ourselves using the brakes more than we would have in one of those cars.

Using "B" mode also precludes use of the cruise control, which has been set to keep the Fit EV at constant speed even when heading downhill (some conventional cars do this as standard, but others don't).

The electric servo brake system, which uses a "pedal force simulator" to give pedal feedback, transitioned imperceptibly between regenerative and friction braking. When driven smoothly, the Fit EV uses its conventional brakes only in hard braking and below 10 mph to come to a complete stop.

Any color as long as it's blue

The 2013 Honda Fit EV comes in one color--Reflective Blue Pearl--and one trim level, which takes a top-level Fit and adds a navigation system with rear-view camera, real-time FM traffic, and interior fabric made of "bio-PET," or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) thread that's sourced from sugar cane rather than petroleum..

It also adds HondaLink EV telematics, the first limited rollout of a system that will be introduced across more Honda products in the coming years (we suspect the all-new 2013 Accord may be next).

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Enlarge Photo

That smartphone app allows owners to see such data as battery state of charge, and to control charging, precondition the cabin temperature while the car is still plugged in, and find local charging stations.

The Fit EV also comes with a small remote control that works at distances up to 1,000 feet. It displays much of the same information, and controls some of the same functions, as the HondaLink EV app.

The 2013 Fit EV comes with full roadside assistance for the 3-year lease period, part of what Honda said was its attempt to provide the best possible ownership experience for drivers of this new and advanced plug-in car.

The $389/month lease cost also includes collision coverage, an annual navigation system update, and all maintenance.

Too bad about that

Overall, we liked our drive in the Honda Fit EV a lot. Unless we absolutely needed more interior room to carry five passengers, we'd likely choose it over a Nissan Leaf.

And that's the problem: Most buyers interested in electric cars won't have that option. Nissan wants to sell as many Leafs as possible, while Honda wants to sell no more than 1,100 Fit EVs.

If you're in California or Portland, a visit to a Honda dealer certified to offer electric cars may be in order.

Even if you don't lease one, you'll likely enjoy the test drive.

Honda provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.

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